Puffball mushrooms range from small to very large in size, averaging 10-70 centimeters in diameter, and are round, oblong, to oval in shape. Some species are small, golf-ball-sized, while others can grow as large as soccer balls. The white fruiting body can be smooth or bear some small scales, warts, or spines, and is firm, airy, and spongy. There is also a protective coating that helps keep debris and dirt from entering the flesh. When sliced, the flesh should be pure white and never have any color. Puffball mushrooms are white when young and transition to a yellow-brown when mature and are rendered inedible when they reach this state. There are few to non-existent stems, and the spores are produced internally in the fruiting body. When young, puffball mushrooms have a mild, nutty, and earthy flavor.
Puffball mushrooms contain some phosphorus, manganese, selenium, and clavacin.
Puffball mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as sautéing, pan-frying, and baking. Referred to as the “breakfast mushroom,” Puffball mushrooms pair well with egg dishes and are enhanced when sautéed and browned in simple ingredients such as garlic and butter. They can be sliced thin and rolled with meat and vegetables, chopped into stir-fries, or grilled with marinades. They can also be cut into slices, battered, and fried, sliced, and used as noodles in lasagna or ravioli, used as the dough in pizza, chopped into croquettes, blended into hummus, pureed into gravies, or dried, and ground into a powder to use as a flavoring agent. The rotund mushrooms can be substituted for tofu or eggplant in many recipes. The flesh readily absorbs the accompanying flavors, so oil should be used sparingly. Puffball mushrooms pair well with tomatoes, broccoli, beets, rutabagas, radishes, turnips, parmesan cheese, garlic, poultry, scallops, crab meat, and tuna. They do not store well and should be used immediately after harvest. They can also be frozen between sheets of plastic and stored for extended use.
Puffball mushrooms are available in the late summer through fall.